I'm not expecting the "Good Old Days" to make a comeback any time soon.
...Which is a good thing, since it means that the Forced-Birth, rape-positive, anti-choice politicians trying to ram this horrible woman-hating misogynistic piece of crap bill through Congress can be safely viewed as the lying assholes they really, truly, are.
The trope that the 1950s was a halcyon time full of happy (white, male) children playing in beautiful (white, segregated) suburbs, cared for by Moms (unpaid, unappreciated labor) who spent their days in spotless houses with the sun constantly shining was created by Madison Avenue to make real people feel like they had to buy products, because if they didn't, then the dream of perfect suburbia would never be theirs.
It never existed. How do I know? I collect old magazines. I'm particularly fond of old women's magazines, because the articles and editorials are so hilariously repressive and woman-blaming, while the ads are brightly coloured never-never lands of gorgeous women selling toilet paper in pastel colours.
(I also really dig the fashions, especially the 1940s-50s ones.)
I'm currently bagging some of them up to sell (I'm refining my collection to mostly early 1950s and before) and some of the ones I bought cheap are falling apart, so I'm splitting them up into individual pages (mostly ads, some fashion and home spreads) to sell - there's a small market for the neat artwork, and a smaller market for the advertising that ties in with collectibles, like beer cans and Avon cosmetics (and Kotex/other sanitary goods - go figure). I'm going to rent a booth at a flea market and try my hand at getting rid of some of my old vintage stuff (easier - and better prices - than a yard sale).
But in the process of splitting and mounting pages, I read the articles, and in the Ladies' Home Journal, March 1958 issue, an article called Is Morality "Normal"? by Dorothy Thompson, caught my eye. This being LHJ, I wasn't expecting an actual, interesting article looking at the science, and psychological work, I was thinking more along the lines of "God=Moral=Good, and Sexxytimes=Bad", and I wasn't disappointed. It's a typical "kids these days! People are so mean! And all the Rampant sex is destroying our children!" diatribe, of the typical level you'd find in any mainstream publication of the time, and perpetuated to this day in thousands of rather boring 'blogs under the impression that their "Life As I See It" drivel is actually thought-provoking or new.*
You know, the stuff that Andy Rooney's been blithering out for about a thousand years (give or take a millennium).
What I find fascinating is the timeliness of the complaints in the 1958 article, which expose the lie of "everything was perfect in the 1950s!". Such as:
"It is a common saying that we live in a time of moral crisis. When, however, one seeks an explanation, one usually gets only descriptions of symptoms, such as that the crime rate is shockigly high, especially among juveniles; personal and social disciplines are lax; marriage and family life are unstable; patriotism is on the decline although nationalism flourishes; values are almost exclusively materialistic; the religious instinct is largely moribund and revivalism and increasing church membership indicative only of a frantic search for security and social acceptability."
That was written in 1958. Aside from the somewhat stilted language usage (and the parlous overuse of semi-colons - five in a single sentence? Really??), this litany of woes is identical to the woes listed as somehow unique to our time, 2011, where children run wild in the streets, and crime is at an all-time high! Abortions on demand! Women and minorities thinking they should be equal! Cats and dogs, living together and serving openly in the military!! Woe! Pull out the sackcloth and ashes, America is surely going down the tubes tomorrow!!!!!**
Then the article goes on rather amusingly to list how life sucked so bad in the old days, according to "Sociologists", but if it was so bad, why is there a moral crisis now? Huh? Answer me that, Mr. Smarty-Pants Scientist!
The author goes on to list more signs of the inevitable decline:
"One notices in modern urban life innumerable signs of human callousness. A young person almost never offers his seat in a public conveyance, even to an old woman or a other carrying a baby in her arms. An accident on the street seldom causes anyone to offer personal aid; at most he will notify the nearest policeman. Vandalism being visibly cmmitted, even by children, calls forth no interference by adults."
Again, 1958. This is in 1958. The rosy days of the golden age of America, when everything was perfect, the Republicans say.
(One also wonders if the author herself, upon observing the callousness of strangers on the bus needing seats, offered her up as an example. One supposes not.)
But, after a bit of hand-wringing about the state of the world (poised on the brink of nuclear destruction, don'tcha know), and how people are just mean, she gets to her real argument, the same argument that all repressive people seem to think is What's Really Wrong With America[tm]: Sex. More specifically, sex outside the rules and boundaries of right wing Jeebus-invoking, Bible-thumping, missionary-position-but-only-between-a-m
"The late Doctor Kinsey made studies that established a vast incidence of sexual peversion and promiscuity among the persons he interviewed - an incidence so prevalent as to appear typical. [...blah study can't be really accurate, since he clearly interviewed perverts, blah...] Suppose the Kinsey studies did accurately report conditions in general. Does that make it normal?***
"Some commentators on the reports made that equation, arguing that since this is the way people are, this is normal; legal penalties and feelings of guilt should be abolished."
Of course, the author thinks this is a bad idea. Because it is 1958 (and still is, in the minds of the right-wing), and the filthy pervs and homos need to be whipped publicly for having the temerity to express their love outside the hetero-normative one-man-one-woman-and-only-after-marriag
Finally, we see where the author is going - to the place that all Right-Wing Republican men and women live, where women are a commodity, and cannot be trusted with any decision about what's right for their bodies*****. They are passive vessels, waiting to be filled with the right man's seed, and incubators wherein the right man may be safely assured of growing healthy progeny. Girls who live outside this proscribed role are to be shamed, and lied to about the consequences of their choices******:
"Every great civilization has always protected its young girls from too early sexual experience..."
...Because women have been considered property throughout most of recorded history. Keep your property unused until you can sell it to the highest bidder, men!
"[blah, heavy petting, people having sex, blah] Of course, [sexual intercourse] reaches its normal conclusion in unnumbered cases. The results are abortions, shotgun marriages concluded before full maturity, unwanted children, first babies given away for adoption, later divorces, and the breakup of homes that were never seriously intended."
Oh, how to stop all this terrible, turrible woe! How can we protect our young girls from all this baby-making when all they wanted was some fun, healthy, consensual sex? But no, there is nothing but shame:
"It is all very well to speak of "safe contraceptives". None is absolutely trustworthy, the safest won't be fitted by reputable physicians to young girls [presumably this is a good thing, since the pill isn't a pessary, and condoms are designed to fit on men], and consummated petting [translation: Hot, sweaty sex] is not intended or provided for."
So... contraceptives aren't intended to be used during sex?
Oh no, it gets, um, better:
"Really, one could learn something from cattle breeders, who preach no moral lessons to cows, but keep their heifers until fully mature, out of the bull pasture! They do so because the progeny of precocious conceptions are usually weak and the cows often "spoiled". An aborted cow goes to the hooks for meat. But a good cow is worth several hundred dollars. Our daughters, some of them, are apparently less valuable."
And there you have it - not only do an alarmingly large number of people still think this way (see: Purity Balls), this is what we're all supposed to revere and try to get back to. They think this is the "right" way to live: that women and girls really are the property of their husbands, and rape, as long as it isn't committed by a "forcible" stranger with a knife, is simply sex (even if the woman is saying no, or she's drugged unconscious, or incapable of consent for other reasons), because property doesn't have the right of consent. This is what the Right Wingers want. This is their utopia. They support rape. They support forced birth. They support the hatred and marginalization of all women, minorities, and anyone who doesn't look like them (they will allow "exceptional" women like Sarah Palin and Anne Coulter to work outside the home, but only as long as they don't get too uppity).
Any way of living that strips away human rights in the name of "morality" and "decency" is neither. Silence is acceptance. Speak out.
*See also: Every right wing blog evar.
***Yes. Also, average. That's what the word means, you idiot.
****I wish this had changed, but to some douchenozzles, it will always be 1958.
*****Because clearly, men know far better than women what women need. That's what they keep telling us, anyway.
******But not boys. Boys will be boys, right? Hey, they're just red-blooded American boys, it's the girls that are shameful sluts.